The debut album from The Pentagraham Crackers, Live From the Palace of Payne, is simply a fun, rockin album. The music matches the groups name itself—it’s quirky and fun with just a hint of evil. It’s dark lyrics with dancy riffs and a promise to never take itself too seriously.
Nick Neihart, whose bowl cut and Tom Selleck mustache make him look like a movie character from the 70’s, fronts The Pentagraham Crackers. His previous self-titled album Songs Made of Salt was a singer-songwriter folk album rich in lyrical depth and brooding intensity. Live from the Palace of Payne is a departure from this genre as Neihart brings us a rockin surf punk record. It’s noticeably lighter, and yet lyric and poetic enough that the melodies stay with you and make you think.
The lyrics themselves are nothing light, but the music and occasional yeehaw and faux southern drawl from Neihart remind us that we’re allowed to have fun. The first track “Mouth Full of Gutters,” starts slow and bluesy but by track three your playing air drums in your car. Track three is a fun song about killing yourself where Neihart sings “ I’m gonna get myself some of that sweet sweet lovin, gonna stick my head in an old gas oven!” Track eight is another fun one where the chorus has Neihart yelling “Depression!” over and over again with a classic Ramones punk vibe. It’s fun and sad and dark all at the same time.
The drums are fast and the guitar riffs hard but the lyrics themselves are perhaps the best part of the whole album. The chorus from “Birds to Breath” is just one example of the incredible lyrical quality of Neihart’s work, “I’ll be the one to break your tired neck, “ he sings “let the birds into your chest/their wings will beat the wind into your breath/and those secrets that you’ve kept, will one day resurrect.” While on other songs, melodies of “heaven is a quiet place” echo softly in the background.
The album ends with the song “Forty Ounces of Blues,” a slow bluesy tune that settles us back into the darkness we’ve just entered and danced through. But the entire album is a reminder that sometimes there’s nothing to do with darkness but laugh in its face and dance in its backyard. Perhaps munch on some graham crackers, put them in the shapes of pentagrams, just for fun. - Levi Rogers
Since it was recorded live, without any fancy trappings, this album from The Pentagraham Crackers captures all the blistering, raw power of the cowpunk quartet’s country/surf/garage-punk sound. The percussion is tight, the two guitars wail and moan, and frontman Nick Neihart’s voice has the ability to oscillate between ragged Iggy Pop yells and Nick Cave-esque spookiness. This album wins double points, too: Not only was it one of my favorites this year, but “Danger Blues,” with all its haunting darkness, was one of my favorite songs of the year. - City Weekly "Top Ten Albums of 2013"
Local four-piece “everyman’s band” The Pentagraham Crackers recorded their first LP live at their friend David Payne’s (Red Bennies) home, hence the title Live From the Palace of Payne. The absence of many overdubs lends the album the same immediacy and energy of a live performance, and songs like “Noose for a Halo” and “Birds to Breath” are full of the band’s trademark snappy, punk-injected rhythms and driving guitar work. But the highlight of the album by far is the slowed-down, psychedelia-leaning “Danger Blues,” which features darkly poetic lyrics—“The sun’s sinking down to the jaws of the west”—and Nick Neihart’s haunting, droning vocals, which Nick Cave would be proud of. Live From the Palace of Payne will be released on cassette tape by Chthonic Records (with a digital download if you threw out that old tape player) as well as on CD, with the added bonus of a limited-edition poster. Night Sweats and The Circulars open the show. - Kolbie Stonehocker "City Weekly Live Picks"
The fluid tempo and mood in Live! From the Palace of Payne flow from upbeat in one track, to depressive and longing in another. The genre seems fluid, too, and pinning it down may only last till the end of a riff. Pentagraham Crackers pull mostly from twangy blues and punk while singing with a cracking drawl to form a genre of unclassifiable indie rock, framed with continuous, bending guitar leads—whether to calm me down or to engross me in the motion of the beat the way “The Afterlife” does. The fourth track, “Noose For a Halo,” steps the tempo up after the slow “Danger Blues,” and adds head-bounciness with catchy vocals that sound very close to Bill Sartain in the early days of Future of the Ghost—not that there’s anything wrong with that. –Steve Richardson